Master builder Robert Moses dreamed up the Southern State Parkway in the 1920s as a winding getaway for city dwellers who would decamp to Long Island parks like Jones Beach.
By the end of the century, a 10-mile stretch roughly from Exit 17 to Exit 30 had earned a nightmarish nickname: "Blood Alley."
The Southern State — where a wrong-way crash at Exit 29 early Tuesday in North Massapequa killed four and injured two — has long been one of Nassau County’s deadliest parkways. In 2012, a Newsday report called it the deadliest in the county.
The report said 37 people died in crashes on the Southern State in Nassau in the prior six years, more than on any other county parkway, adding that there was little prospect of a renovation to make it safer. In 2002, the State Police said the corridor is among New York’s most crash prone.
In 2017, the parkway was the subject of a news conference where politicians called on the state to improve safety along the 26-mile stretch.
State Sen. John E. Brooks (D-Seaford) and Assemb. Michaelle Solages said the parkway had become antiquated and sought improvements eyed at safety.
The parkway was designed to carry traffic of the 1930s — a 42-foot-wide, four-lane, undivided roadway, with wooden light poles, brown and white signs, and stone bridges — by Moses, according to Newsday’s book "Long Island: Our Story."
But the postwar housing boom fueled traffic jams, and the roadway went from 15,000 vehicles per day prewar, to 71,000 per day in 1951 and 107,000 by the mid-1950s, the book said, and around 1998, carried 190,000 daily.
Robert Sinclair, spokesman for AAA New York, told Newsday in 2012 that the Southern State is "the poster child of bad roads in our area that predate modern engineering."
Asked detailed questions about safety precautions installed on the Southern State, Stephen Canzoneri, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, which is in charge of the parkway, wrote in an email: "We extend our sympathy to all affected by this crash. Safety is our top priority. We are awaiting the results of the police investigation to determine the full circumstances surrounding the crash."